Winds of change causing concern in Meelick

The site of the proposed Ballycar Green Energy windfarm.

A GROUP of Meelick residents are opposed to plans to site a wind farm on the hills near their homes a few miles from Limerick City over concerns about the impact it may have on their community.

Niall Ward, who formed a community action group against the wind farm plans, says the proposal by Ballycar Green Energy to site 12 turbines in the Cappantymore Hills area stretching up to Gallows Hill will cause noise pollution and could block light from some of the homes through a phenomenon known as ‘shadow flicker’.

Mr Ward told the Limerick Post that the installation of the windfarm will result in untold havoc in his community.

“These structures are 160 meters high. I’ve personally gone to a windfarm in county Limerick and stood under these turbines. There is noise from them and, with the height proposed in this plan, they would be seen from miles around.”

Ballycar’s proposal puts the nearest turbine 600 metres away from the nearest home in the area, which, Mr Ward admits, is within the guideline distance of placement regulations – though he adds that these  regulations “were to be updated a long time ago and have just sat on the Minister’s desk.”

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Mr Ward and some other members of the group are currently leafleting door-to-door to outline their concerns and invite locals to a public meeting being held in Meelick Community Hall on Friday, November 4 at 7pm.

He does not feel that the company proposing the windfarm has engaged with local people enough, although a meeting, to which all interested parties were invited, was held by Ballycar in a Limerick Hotel.

“People didn’t know about it,” he insisted.

Mr Ward did not personally take up an invite either from the company to visit another of their windfarms in County Clare, but believes that around 20 local people did make the trip.

He said local people want the company to organise another information event, though has so far not expressed his right to invite representatives of Ballycar to his upcoming meeting in Meelick to answer questions.

In a response to the Limerick Post about some of the concerns raised by Mr Ward, a spokeswoman for the company said:

“In our experience, many residents in the vicinity of operational wind farms do not view the wind turbines as intrusive. However, we understand that some may be apprehensive in relation to the potential visual change to the landscape.

“We offered the option of visiting an operational wind farm to residents so they could view the structures up close and decide for themselves. We are pleased to confirm that most people attending the site visit found the turbines unoffensive.

The latest figures show that wind energy has supplied 31 per cent of Ireland’s electricity demand this year to the end of September, the spokeswoman pointed out.

She added that the evolution of wind farm technology over the past decade “has greatly reduced noise from wind turbines, with the main sound being the aerodynamic swoosh of the blades”.

“There are strict guidelines in the planning regulations on wind turbines noise emissions to ensure the protection of residential amenity.”

She added that the company is committed to eliminating the effects of shadow flicker by installing solar sensors on the turbine which automatically shut down the turbine during times the phenomenon is likely to occur.